We’ve all heard about search engine optimization (SEO). Those three letters contain some of the most important considerations for distributors’ websites.

How do customers find what they are looking for online? Why are search results often different on a smartphone versus a desktop computer? If my company relies on branches, do I need to worry about SEO?

The following is an outline of some of the basic aspects of SEO that business-to-business (B2B) distributors should be addressing.

Why Do Distributors Need SEO?

The number of websites grows daily at a staggering rate. By the end of February 2018, the estimated number of sites was more than 1.3 billion. You can watch the estimated number increase at internetlivestats.com/watch/websites/.

With all of these websites, how can your site stand out from the competition? Why would someone choose to click on a link to your site? About 90 perfect of Google traffic comes from page one placement in search results. Conversely, less than 10 percent click on the second page of the search results. At this point, it may sound daunting to even think about getting on the first page of Google’s search results. Fear not! Read on to learn how a distributor’s website can be a formidable presence within Google search results.

What is SEO?

SEO is an ongoing effort to make your website visible to search engines. The remainder of this article will address how distributors can positively impact SEO for their sites. Impacting SEO requires having a plan. Develop a strategy and implementation plan to address SEO.

Common goals for an e-commerce site include increasing conversion, lowering the cost to serve customers and providing self-service options. Additional goals may include increasing wallet share of existing customers and/or increasing geography and customer base. Many distributors are also actively promoting specific content, such as case studies, on their sites, so conversions may include non-transactional goals.

What SEO Tasks Should Be Done First?

SEO includes some fairly technical aspects in addition to beefing up relevant content for users.

  • Fix any issues with the site.
  • Ensure your site is fast and page load speeds are good (start with tools.pindom.com).
  • Make sure your site is mobile-optimized. If not, you will miss opportunities.
  • Make sure your site is secure, which you’ll know by seeing “https” versus “http.”

B2B Site SEO Audit

Let’s step back for a moment. How do you know if your site has issues? A site audit will provide specific information that can be used to prioritize and guide what needs to be modified.

At Real Results Marketing, we routinely conduct site audits for customers. Even if you think your site is in great shape, you’ll be surprised how many items are identified to be fixed. There are different levels of information that are returned in a site audit.

  • Errors are items that need to be rectified to gain and keep good standings with search engines. Errors are always the first items to address on your site.
  • Warnings pertain to things that don’t necessarily need to be changed for Google but, when possible, they should be addressed. Distributors often have many SKUs on an e-commerce site – sometimes millions. As such, one of the biggest challenges for a distributor is having titles or URLs that are too long. Sometimes those can be changed, but often they are generated automatically based on product names and information. Regardless, all URLs should be search-engine friendly, meaning readable by humans and not computer gibberish.
  • Information provides data about your pages and site that may not need immediate attention or attention at all. These areas are good to know as you get more advanced in your SEO efforts. For example, “empty alt text” refers to the code that search engines see for an image and that field is often left empty. However, it’s one more way to tell Google about the image and a great field to populate.

Site Audit - Error Image

What Are the Next Steps After an Audit?

After an audit has been completed and the errors fixed, the next steps include:

  • Develop a keyword strategy to rank higher in Google. Several tools exist to help make this job easier. Start with Google’s free Keyword Planner, which is part of AdWords. There are lots of nuances with keywords, which are beyond the scope of this article.
  • Gain backlinks where possible. Google uses backlinks as an important indicator for a site’s popularity and authority. Start by checking backlinks of competitive sites to get a sense of your competition and develop ideas for your website. Not all backlinks are the same. Some “black hat” sites provide backlinks that actually hinder SEO. If a non-relevant sites links to your site, there is a method for disavowing those backlinks.
  • Content is often referred to as the “holy grain” of SEO. For distributors, having high-quality product content is essential. In distribution, many companies have access to the same product content. The goal is to differentiate your site from others with the same product content. When possible, tweak the content to pertain to your customers. Start with the top 100 products and optimize and/or add to the content with relevant and useful data. Other content on your site, such as blogs and application information, is also important. Don’t just “stuff” words on a page. Write like your customer is sitting in front of you and you’ll be fine.
  • The final SEO component distributors should optimize is local SEO as most distributors have branch locations. Local SEO starts with Google MyBusiness (google.com/business/) for a free listing. Bing Place (bingplaces.com) should be a second resource to ensure your information is accurate. Your name, address, and phone number must be consistent in all of your online mentions (website, directories, listings). Not that (555) 555-1515 is different in Google’s view than 555.555.1515 and 555-555-1515. Be consistent.

How Long Do I Need SEO?

Think of SEO as a competition that goes on forever. SEO is a discipline that requires ongoing resourcing and attention. Approximately three-and-a-half months are required for targeted content to appear higher in search results. There are thousands of factors that shift the timeframe and results, which also vary from person to person, by geography and by device.

The good news is that while search engines change all the time, the fundamentals generally remain the same. Provide solid, relevant and useful information to your customers and prospects for a higher probability of search engines looking on your site favorably. If your company has an internal digital expert, terrific! If not, consider hiring one who ideally has experience in B2B distribution.